More awesomes than not this week, though that’s usually the case. I try to be positive.
Last week, San Diego Seal Chris Origlieri made his NLL debut in place of Frank Scigliano who was on the COVID list, and beat Panther City. That was pretty awesome. Then Origlieri had to be put on the COVID list himself but Scigliano hadn’t been removed from the list, so the Seals were forced to go to another rookie goaltender. And what did Justin Geddie do? Held the Saskatchewan Rush to two goals in the first half and 11 total to give the Seals another win. Freakin’ awesome.
But that’s not all – there were more rookie goalies who had an impact this past weekend. Nick Rose had a bit of a rough start so Troy Holowchuk made his NLL debut and played very well, holding the Thunderbirds to 8 goals in over 51 minutes, including almost nine minutes of OT. He was credited with the loss but by no means did he lose the game. Meanwhile over on Long Island, rookie Steven Orleman took over for Gowah Abrams in the second quarter, and allowed only 5 goals in over 42 minutes including over 10 minutes of OT. Similar to Holowchuk, he was credited with the loss when Patrick Dodds scored to end the game, but that loss was definitely not on him.
In an interesting twist, Steven Orleman was facing his brother Kevin Orleman, who was in goal for Panther City. I don’t know of another tandem of goalie brothers in NLL history, so that, by itself, is also awesome.
Dawson (when do we start doing the John Tavares thing and start calling him “ageless”?) played in his 300th career game last weekend, and also passed John Grant Jr. for second on the all-time points list, and he’ll soon pass Tavares for top spot on both the career games played and assists lists. There’s no question that Dawson is one of the best players in NLL history but here’s a sobering thought that tells you how good Tavares was: Tavares played 6 more games in his career than Dawson, and scored almost 300 more goals.
A lot of people predicted the Bandits would be one of the top teams this season, and thus far the team has proven all of those people right. Josh Byrne and Dhane Smith are one of the deadliest duos in the league, Chase Fraser is quickly becoming a fan favourite, and Matt Vinc is not looking like a guy who turns 40 later this year. Tehoka Nanticoke isn’t dominating the offense like many thought he might, but he’s shown glimpses of the amazing player he could become. Remember, Lyle Thompson’s first season was good but not outstanding, and he was named MVP in his second. Not sure that’ll happen with Nanticoke but given the amount of talent around him, the Bandits can afford to let him have as much time to acclimate to the NLL as he wants.
Nobody thinks the Bandits will go 18-0 but they’re leading the league in goals per game and goals against per game, have no glaring weaknesses, and they’re getting solid production from their rookies as well. The Thunderbirds are also undefeated, but they haven’t looked as dominant in their wins as the Bandits have looked in theirs. I don’t do “power rankings” during the season but it’s clear who should be at the top of any such list.
Close games and comebacks
In the five games in week 7, four of them were decided by a single goal, two of those in overtime, and the final game was decided by two. The two overtime quarters were long (8:50 and 10:50) and almost constant action, and New York / Panther City game had two goals scored in overtime that were overturned on review. We all thought the game was over twice before it actually was.
In three of the four games decided by one goal, the winning team had at least a 3-goal lead at one point, but their opponents came back. In some cases they managed to come all the way back to tie it but in other cases they at least made a game of it. Panther City led by 6 in the third quarter of their game, but the Riptide came back to tie it three times before sending the game to overtime (and came within a Callum Crawford toe of winning it).
Honestly, blowouts kind of suck. They’re generally boring to watch, and it’s hard to watch the losing team just try to get through it once it’s clear they’re not coming back. Sometimes it’s even awkward for the winning team as they try to not let up too much but not run up the score either. Close games and comebacks are much more exciting to watch.
Toronto / Halifax offense
Each team scored 13 goals so it’s not like the offenses weren’t working at all, but the word “sloppy” was used on the broadcast an awful lot for two teams as strong as these two. Toronto has Dan Dawson, one of the best forwards of all time, Tom Schreiber, one of the best in the game today, and Challen Rogers, one of the best all-around players in the game today but we discovered just how much Rob Hellyer means to the Toronto offense, as things looked a little disjointed without him. Cody Jamieson, also one of the best of all time, wasn’t the impact player we’re used to seeing, though it was his first game of the year. On both sides there were missed passes, passes to nobody, dropped balls, and missed loosies leading to turnovers. Obviously these things happen to every team but there seemed to be more than you’d expect. It’s odd that game 1 of the season (after a break of almost two years) seemed less sloppy than this one.
New York Riptide
The Riptide are 0-4 and the only remaining winless team. But it’s sort of unfair – they’re not that bad. They’ve lost two OT games, a two-goal game against Philly that they were in right until the end, and a four-goal loss to Georgia in which they were down by 6 and came back to within two twice. They also lost Jeff Teat for two games which is significant. The Not Awesome here isn’t the Riptide themselves, it’s not awesome that with a couple of bounces the other way, they could be at least 2-2.
Calgary last played a game on December 17 against San Diego, and because of game postponements, their next game isn’t until January 29, also against San Diego. That’s 43 days without a game. The Roughnecks have started somewhat slowly, at 1-2, but the Seals will have played a couple of games in between these two meetings. Hopefully the Roughnecks can shake off 5 weeks worth of rust quickly.